Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trials of a Model Builder Part III

My best friend's reaction wasn't what I was expecting.  His model kits looked clean, for straight kit builds with no detail.  They were simple and plain, but nice nonetheless.  He had assembled his right off the bat, with no aftermarket changes made.  Mine looked like somebody had ruined it, and it was no longer a worthy weapon of war.  It was more akin to a poor action figure that had been stepped on and abused, not a battle-hardened weapon of war.

My next model kit was just like the last one, in that I felt compelled to paint it up like it had been through a tough fight.  However, I did so with much more care and detail than the first.  The artificial blast marks looked more realistic (for a piece of plastic); the parts stayed together much more readily, due to the higher quality of the kit.  Every thing that I had done on the first one that made it a horrible abomination somehow made this second one an excellent model.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but I figured I would try yet again with this upcoming third model. 

My friends were impressed briefly by the new model, but quickly their attention would move on.  The  third model kit construction began, and I spent a good deal of time constructing, the minor details of the kit were on my mind once again.  Every last inch of the thing was adorned with the wounds of the battlefield, but this was not the greatest attraction of the kit by far.  No, the main thing that I had been toiling away at was adding lighting to the mono-eye of the Zaku II FZ that lay before me.

When you find yourself at college, drilling a hole can be a daunting task.  And so I tackled it as best as I could: by spinning my screwdrivers in place as fast as I could, so as to slowly whittle away little shavings of plastic.  Millimeter by millimeter.  Speck by speck.  It took hours upon hours to completely drill through the little head section that was smaller than my finger tip, but it happened.  My hands hurt afterword, but it was worth it.  A tiny little LED was permanently encased in the tiny little Zaku head, and the leads were fed down the neck of the kit, into the backpack of the beast.  Hollowing out the backpack took a fraction of the effort, and soon it was full again, but this time with a button battery.

The worn look was applied to this one just as it was to predecessors.  But that light-up mono-eye was what made it a fantastic model.  And damn it, it was a step in the right direction.

Trials of a Model Builder Part II

The Porsche kit got painted a bright yellow, with black details, and ended up disappearing sometime shortly after that.  I don't know what became of it, nor do I care- it looked terrible.  I mean, it was a fine model kit, and I had done an alright job with my dad's help.  But I still didn't like it, since I don't really have an interest in cars.

My dad ended up getting a really high-end detailed model kit of the Apollo Command Module and Service Module.  He wanted me to help him build it, and so I did.  It was a relatively complicated kit, designed for those who had the skill required to address the nuances of the structure, and apply color exactly where it needed to be, and nowhere else.  We spent what felt like weeks painting, prepping, trimming, gluing, adjusting, etc., to produce a kit worthy of display.  I thought that the colors for certain interior components looked all wrong, but supposedly they were right on the mark.

We displayed it prominently on top of the TV's cabinet, a good 7 feet off the ground.  While sitting watching some show not worthy of remembrance, whilst my mom sat adjacent to me reading her newspaper, the model kit tumbled down from its perch, only to smash into pieces upon contacting the carpeted floor below.  My dad was sad to see that kit destroyed, and no doubt thought that I was responsible for knocking down from its pedestal up on high.  It wasn't even salvaged- it ended up square in the trash.

 Model kits were cast from my mind for close to a decade after that.  It wouldn't be until my college-era best friend introduced me to the world of Mobile Suit Gundam that I would begin building models again.

We started with 0080: War in the Pocket, followed closely by 08th MS Team, and 0083: Stardust Memory.  I  wasn't interested at first, thinking it was the same as Gundam Wing, a childish work that only seemed to keep the attention of my friends who had nostalgia goggles for it harkening back to their childhoods.  Something fantastic about the series caught my eye, and I purchased a pair of starter kits with my friend to get us off of the ground, and get my footing again in this medium.

I bought a set of small detail paints, found an x-acto knife, and found a place to mount my pocket vice on my desk.  The first kit I pumped out was a thrill to assemble, as I covered it with paint and a few stickers.  I tried to detail it as best I could, giving it crude battle damage, cutting away sections, scraping divots into the plastic, and splashing color in places to make it appear combat scarred.  It looked alright to me, but the poor quality of the kit, and the material with which it was molded made it flimsy, and hard to keep in one piece.

I was off to show it my friend for his critique of my work.

Trials of a Model Builder Part I

Long ago, in grade school, I was introduced to the concept of building model kits.  I remember watching my dad build a scale model of the space shuttle when I was about 5 or 6, using an airbrush to detail the work.  It was a glorious rendering of the shuttle, something that I would never expect to be able to duplicate in my lifetime.  The smell of the paint thinner, the must of the carcinogenic clue, the odor of the white model putty- it all culminated in a strong concoction that made the basement a borderline health hazard.

Fast forward to the late 90's, and my cub-scout troop is instructed to have each member bring a model kit of their choice to the next meeting.  My dad let me pick out a kit, and I selected a convertible sports car, possibly a Porsche, but lost in my collective memory.  I brought it to the scout house, opened up the box, studied the directions, surveyed the parts that were arranged before me and awaited instruction.  My dad told me to break apart the pieces (all of them, since it was a small enough kit not to get parts mixed up), and begin removing the traces of where they had been affixed to the plastic frame.

I snapped them off, sometimes aided by an x-acto knife, but always followed up with a good several minutes of sanding to strike any trace of the frame from the piece.  I would periodically look up to see my good friend accross the table snapping pieces off of the molding racks, only to quickly push them together with glue. He didn't seem too concerned that a nub adorned the section he had just assembled, and I was baffled at this observation.

I walked out of the scout house with a box filled with freshly sanded and prepared pieces, and one or two simple parts that could be glued, awaiting the first coats of spray paint.  My friend across the table, like so many other scouts there that night, walked away with a fully completed model kit, with no paint on it whatsoever.  No paint, no detailing save for a few stickers, nothing but what came in the box (and an excess of model glue) used to cobble together the model kits in tow.

Commodore Z's Mindhouse Boilerplate

The world of a geek is complicated, and even though I'm the farthest thing from a writer or anything remotely close, sometimes there are pieces of my geeky mind that need to be expressed.

With that, if you happen to be reading this for some reason (I can't rightly think of a good one yet), then maybe you can get a glimpse into the inner working of my mind.  Perhaps I'll talk about a project that's currently occupying me, or some fragment from a topic that amuses me.  Take what I say with a grain of salt, or perhaps some onion powder.